I continue with my "Steve Hamilton Catch Up" reading project, this one from 2009. It is another standalone, a break from his series narrated by glum ex-cop Alex McKnight. And this one is pretty good, in fact it won the Edgar Award for "Best Novel".
Hamilton does a pretty good job of grabbing you from the get-go. In Chapter One we meet the narrator Michael, who's in the slammer for unspecified reasons. He is unable to speak, thanks to a traumatic episode in his past. (Details on that don't emerge until pages 253ff., but don't skip ahead, OK?) He pines for his true love, Amelia. He has uncanny artistic talent. But he also has an "unforgivable talent", which turns out to be absolute mastery of breaking into places that he's not supposed to get into. Locked doors, padlocks, safes, you name it.
From there, the story develops on two time tracks, alternating chapter by chapter. One follows how Michael got caught up in a life of crime, starting by falling in with a bad-jock crowd in high school. The other follows his career as a (more or less) professional "boxman", a freelance member of gangs looking to knock over targets that call for his expertise.
All the while, Michael remains a totally sympathetic character, poor choices and all. The book leaves room for a sequel, but so far Hamilton hasn't done that, and I kind of hope he doesn't. It's a pretty complete story as is.